New qualifications for beauty treatments a step forward, but new legislation needed to protect the public

15 January 2021, Heidi Douglas-Osborn

CIEH has welcomed the development of new regulated qualifications on non-surgical cosmetic procedures from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and Save Face, in association with the Qualification Council for Cosmetic Procedures (QCCP).

Alongside the new qualification, Save Face, the national register of non-surgical cosmetic treatment practitioners, has also published new data on complaints from members of the public about treatments going wrong. 

Of the 1,617 complaints made to Save Face in the last year:

  • Four in five (81%) were not required to give appropriate consent prior to treatment. 
  • Over four in five (82%) were ignored or “blocked” by their practitioner when they sought help.
  • Over three quarters (78%) believed that their practitioner was uninsured
  • The vast majority (93%) were not made aware that any serious complications could occur and believed that the procedures were low risk beauty treatments.

Members of the public are often exposed to malpractice during non-surgical cosmetic treatments, due to practitioners performing the procedures without appropriate safety training or good quality qualifications. 

These issues have spurred the RSPH and the QCCP to create new qualifications that will help provide reassurance to the public when deciding on a practitioner to perform the procedures. 

In 2020, CIEH and the Institute of Licensing published two flagship reports on the regulation of cosmetic treatments, A fragmented picture: regulation of cosmetic treatments in the UK and The ugly side of beauty: improving the safety of cosmetic treatment in England. These reports highlighted the alarming gaps in protections and made a number of key recommendations for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to improve protection for members of the public. 

Recommendations were aimed at England and included:

  • Updated legislation requiring mandatory licensing of all cosmetic treatment providers
  • Development of national standards and licence conditions, such as appropriate qualifications for all practitioners
  • Collection of data on adverse effects in members of the public
  • Regulation of all cosmetic treatments under one system to ensure that no treatments fall through the cracks

Northern Ireland regulation in this area is similar to that of England, whilst a licensing scheme is being set up in Wales for certain treatments and a licensing scheme for certain treatments is already in place in Scotland. A new qualification that has already been developed by RSPH on infection control, the completion of which will soon become mandatory for those offering special procedures in Wales.   

Julie Barratt, CIEH President, said:

“It is encouraging to see the launch of new qualifications developed by The QCCP and RSPH to protect the safety of the public. However, without more robust regulation in this area, these qualifications will stay voluntary for those delivering cosmetic treatments to members of the public. 

It is shocking that 1,617 complaints were made last year to Save Face about the quality and safety of cosmetic procedures, with one in five people stating that they were not required to give appropriate consent prior to treatment. The lack of regulation in this sector remains a key public health issue, with the current regulation being wholly inadequate to protect the public.

Environmental practitioners are working tirelessly to regulate poor practice on behalf of local authorities but are often hindered by the registration system in England, which dates back to the early 1980s. England has fallen behind other UK nations, with both Scotland and Wales being in the process of introducing a more robust licensing system. Northern Ireland also lacks up to date legislation in this area to protect the public.”

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